Daak – A Weekly Newsletter Offers The Best Of Regional Art & Literature

Daak – A Weekly Newsletter Offers The Best Of Regional Art & Literature

From letter writing to emails to quick WhatsApp messages, we’ve definitely come a long way in striving for communication that’s fast and effective. Most of our lives are dictated by the touch of a button, and distance is hardly a buzzkill anymore. An Instagram geotag is all we need to inform our friends back home about our exciting travel adventures, or perhaps a verbose phone call to further narrate stories about those adventures. Letters now belong only to the nostalgic and postcards have been reduced to inexpensive souvenirs. Being swept away by technology and time is no longer an option ; it’s a reality. But we all have our ways of trying to hold on.

With a digital newsletter being sent to almost 3000 subscribers every weekend, Onaiza Drabu and Prachi Jha’s brainchild ‘Daak’ has managed to revive the lost art of short storytelling. Officially launched in May 2017, Daak is a virtual postcard that is delivered straight to your inbox. It comes with a few lines of poetry or prose, or art printed on the left and a little bit of context on the right. A product of nothing but love for the South Asian culture of the past, the postcards are brown, stamped, and written in cursive typeface — very similar to the real ones.

The Founders of Daak

Onaiza and Prachi met each other at the Young India Fellowship (YIF) at Ashoka University and instantly connected over their love for literature and nostalgia for the past. During the fellowship, Prachi was already working on an internship project which was similar to Daak but it failed to materialise. However, the idea stayed on and so did the desire to bring it to fruition. Despite parting ways after their time at Ashoka, Onaiza and Prachi continued to stay in touch. They’d regularly share reading materials and artworks with each other. One thing led to another and soon they’d zeroed in on the idea of a weekly newsletter celebrating obscure regional literature. “We gave the project a new name, added the element of postcards, and tested out the concept with a group of friends and acquaintances”, they tell Homegrown.

AK Ramanujan’s love poem for his wife, Mahashweta Devi’s story about the role of women in post-colonial India, Gandhi’s letter to Hitler—these undiscovered gems of regional literature make it to Daak. However, Prachi and Onaiza are not the only ones contributing to this online repository.

“Having an engaged group of readers and friends from across the sub-continent, we also rely a lot on their recommendations, which help us in discovering new materials,” says Onaiza.

The duo spends about 6-8 hours each week just creating the newsletter and promoting it through social media. We can only imagine the time and effort that must be going into all the back end research that a project of such magnitude requires, but it’s their love for the written word that keeps them motivated.

“Reading is such an individual exercise, but it also forges connections through shared ideas and experiences. It is both comforting and empowering – to know that you are a part of something greater,” adds Onaiza.

Despite being a predominantly digital experience, Daak’s founders, overwhelmed by the response they continued to receive, decided to step up a notch.

“People have a special connection with objects they can see, touch, hold and preserve. So, the idea is to create content in formats that appeal to people who understand words differently – either visually or orally”.

The first event conducted by Daak was held on February in Delhi, where 8 different people came together to read love poetry in their native languages. Their second event was held in Mumbai on April, and had an amazing lineup of speakers like Rasika Dugal, Danish Husain and others. The theme of the evening was Women’s poetry.

The kind of audience that these events attract is very different—urban professionals whose lives rarely intersect with the worlds of art and literature. They also sold their first set of postcard boxes last month.

While Prachi and Onaiza both work on the content together, the latter is the creative one who looks after the design and aesthetic elements, and Prachi is the meticulous one who edits the final content and puts together the weekly newsletters. Even their workspace, just like their work, is largely virtual. For the past year, Onaiza has been working out of Nairobi and Prachi out of Delhi.

A passion project that has survived purely out the founders’ love for words, Daak is unravelling a treasure chest of vernacular literature for its digital audience.

To subscribe to the weekly postcard, visit their website. You can also find their printed postcards in select bookstores across the country or DM them for order.

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